The Western Kentucky football team practiced Wednesday at Houchens-Smith Stadium, its 13th workout of the spring season. Comments from linebackers Terran Williams and Nick Holt, defensive coordinator Nick Holt, special teams and cornerbacks coach Ricky Brumfield, kicker Garrett Schwettman and punter Joseph Occhipinti.
Time to step up? “Yeah we got to. The difference between last year’s team and this team is everybody’s all-in this year. We ain’t got no superstars, but we all know we can play. We’re all gonna be one, we’re all gonna play together.”
Linebackers: “We’ll be good, you know, because all the plays and stuff carried over from last year. All the calls, we got the same calls and stuff and with Nick, his daddy’s coach Holt, so he’s gonna be one step ahead of the game. He can help me out out there and I can help him out because I remember all the stuff from last year. We’ll be good. I know we’ll be good.”
Second year in system: “We’re one step ahead of the game. There’s not a call that we don’t know. We really rarely have busts, but if we do bust, we try and bust full speed because we carried over from last year.”
Spring overall: “Really, with so many guys, I thought it was going to be kind of rough, but I think we all pulled together and played as one. I’m real proud of them boys.”
Playing for your father: “Ah, it’s been great. He’s a very energetic guy. I feel like a lot of guys on the team feed off that energy. It’s a unique experience to be able to play for your father, so I’m trying to take advantage of it, every moment I can.”
Long road to WKU: “Yeah, it’s definitely been a long road. It’s my fourth college, but I’m really happy to be here and get another shot to play Division I.”
Spring: “I think as a team we’re getting better every day. One day the offense comes out and kinda beats us, the next day we come out fired up. It’s great competition with everyone just going back and forth. Everyone’s getting better everyday. That’s what we strive to.”
Spring game: “I’ve been looking forward to the spring game. All this practice stuff, we’re fed up and it gets old. It gets old after awhile and you wanna, kinda, just go at it full speed.”
Being the starter now: “Well, obviously, I got some pretty big shoes to fill. I feel like I’m gonna do that pretty well this season. I’ve been working hard in the offseason, getting my leg stronger, working on getting the ball where it needs to be and I’ll think I’ll do pretty good this season. I’m pretty excited.”
Learning under Hendrix Brakefield: “Well, honestly, I was pretty caught off guard the first time I stepped on the field once Brakefield got injured. That was on national television, so I was kinda like, ‘OK.’ I kinda learned fast with what you gotta deal with, with the crowd noise and with the pressure. That’s something I’m going to be prepared for this year, honestly.”
Your spring: “I think I’ve had a really productive spring. I’ve been hitting some bombs and I’m pretty excited to bring that into the fall and really impress people.”
Your 2014 season: “I think I’m just continuing to work on leg strength, keep, kinda, fine-tuning everything, extend out how far I can get. I think by the fall I really wanna be confident from everyone – the coaching staff, teammates – that from inside 50 I can hit it. Then take those chances outside.
“But I think overall just continue working on getting stronger and just fine-tuning a few little things.”
End of practice situations: “It’s a nice. The places we play, Alabama, Tennessee last year, you have that big pressure on you with that big a crowd. Then having different clutch kicks throughout the year, it’s nice to have a little pressure on us, gives us a little motivation, I guess.
“Then it’s a little incentive, especially when the coaches get to run. That was pretty nice.”
Spring ball: “It’s really nice. It’s a lot – I feel like it’s a lot more energetic in a good way. A lot of positive attitude, a lot of positive encouragement, yet still being able to get on you. I think that’s good for everybody, I think it helps everybody play a little bit looser.
“I think as an entire special teams unit, we’ve done a great job, from Nolan to Occhipinti, Me, Mugler, all these guys, I think we’ve made strides through this winter into the spring. I feel like having this coaching staff the same as it’s been, basically just bringing in a few new faces, I think it’s helped our confidence. We compete everyday, but it’s not, ‘Oh, we have to prove ourselves,’ like we did last year.”
Linebackers: “Well, you know what, we’ve had a good spring, we have a lot of bodies, they’ve taken a lot of reps. I think when it’s all said and done we’re gonna have quality players and we’ll have some good depth and I think we’ll be able to roll some guys in there and be adequate, I really do.
“I know, obviously, we lose some very good players. I think with this group, I think overall we’ll be solid and when it’s all said and done it’ll be a better group than last year. I really think so.”
Coaching your son: “You know what, it’s really the first time that I can remember that I get to coach my own kid, as opposed to somebody else’s kid. It’s been fun, obviously. It’s a great experience, but I treat him like all the other kids, and the other kids I treat like my own son.
“It’s been fun, but it’s been no different than coaching all the other guys, quite honestly.”
Spring game: “No. 1, stay healthy. No. 2, good tackling and good assignments and good alignments and great effort, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of fun. I want people to come watch the scrimmage and enjoy it and come away from it that, ‘Hey, these guys play hard and they play fast, they play together and it’ll be a fun season in 2014.’ That’s what I’m looking for.
“I’d like to see some young kids get a lot of reps and get better at some things.”
Special teams: “Just to be completely consistent in everything that they’re doing, from snapping to holding to place kicking to punting. We want, when we punt the ball, to put it in a specific spot. And obviously we wanna make all of our field goals.
“Everything starts with our snap. Nolan’s (Dowling) been doing a real good job, getting a good placement and our holds have been better this year and more consistent, and we have great competition right now at field goal kicker. And Joe’s been doing a good job with punting.”
Coverage teams: “I do feel confident. I feel real confident. We didn’t really emphasize that a whole lot this spring, we kinda emphasized a lot more of the protection part of it. Worked a little bit of live coverage (Wednesday) and didn’t do great. Obviously we gotta get that a lot better, but we’re gonna emphasize that a lot more, especially when fall camp rolls around.
“But we wanted to make sure the kids understand the protection that we’re doing, make sure that we protect the punt first, then we cover second. That also kind of deals with Joe and where he places the ball, too. So the better the coverage is gonna be because of his punt placement.”
Cornerbacks: “I see a lot of ‘em fighting through pain. I say that because a lot of them have little, nagging injuries. We’re limited with the number of cornerbacks that we have and not one of them have pulled themselves out.
“We kinda had to force some of them out and they’ve been fighting through it. So they’re doing a great job of fighting through the pain. We got a couple JC transfers in with Forrest (Coleman) and with (Wonderful) Terry and they’re doing a great job. We just gotta get ‘em to learn the system, learn what we’re doing and keep on going.
“But they’re competing. They’re all competing within themselves and within the group and they’re doing a good job with it.”
Spring game: “They’re probably getting tired of us yelling at them. With the spring game, we probably can’t yell at ‘em as much. So they’re gonna have a little bit more fun. We’re gonna let ‘em play ball. That’s what it’s all about. We wanna kinda be hard on ‘em in practice during all the little scrimmages and everything and when the spring game comes around, we want them to just play.
“Play, have fun, we’re gonna be out here and we’ll see what they do.”